Historic Building, Park and Landscape Tours
Trail of Tears - Take the self-guided tour of the National Park Service Historical Trail of Tears when you intersect the Benge Land Route and Water Blue Way Route of the Trail of Tears at Columbus-Belmont State Park, 350 Park Road in Columbus. The John Benge detachment, with some 1100 Cherokee heading west toward Indian Territory, arrived at this spot (via present-day State Highway 58) in mid-November 1838. Given the large size of Capt. Benge’s detachment, participants doubtless spent several days in and around the Mississippi River ferry landing and camped both along the road and in a large semicircle surrounding the landing.Columbus-Belmont State Park has varied facilities including trails, a Civil War museum, a campground and picnic shelters. Several historical markers are on the property, as well as various exhibits in the park museum; present interpretation is focused on the Civil War battle and the fortifications.On February 10, 1934, Columbus-Belmont State Park, originally named Columbus Belmont Battlefield Memorial Park, became a part of the Kentucky State Parks System. The area around the park has many historic connections. In the 1670s, Frenchmen Marquette and Joliet explored the area where Columbus now stands. Originally called Iron Banks due to the deposits of iron ore in the bluffs along the river, the settlement changed its name to Columbus and attempted to have the U.S. capital moved from Washington to western Kentucky after Washington D.C. had been burned by the British during the War of 1812. Although the nation’s capital stayed in Washington, Columbus grew to be an important river town.Kentucky is rich in Civil War history. As one of the states that bordered both the Union and the Confederacy, Kentucky seemed destined to be a battleground. Despite the state’s attempted neutrality, the Commonwealth soon had troops from both North and South on its soil. The role that the Columbus-Belmont area played in that conflict had a long-lasting effect on the outcome of the war. The former site of the Confederate fortifications near Columbus is now the Columbus-Belmont State Park, commemorating all the actions of the day that led to Union defeat there.During the opening months of the Civil War, Columbus began the opening phase of the Federal campaign to secure the West. On September 1, 1861, General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union District of Southeast Missouri, secured Cairo, Illinois, Paducah and the high ground around Columbus. To his surprise, Confederate General Leonidas Polk moved up from Tennessee and took the heights, establishing a camp at Belmont on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. Both Confederate and Union forces had now violated Kentucky’s neutrality forcing the state to ultimately choose the Union.The military advantage of taking the heights could not be overlooked. Confederate guns now looked down on the Mississippi River giving the South a defensible and controlling position of that vital waterway. The Confederacy began to fortify the bluffs above Columbus. During the autumn and winter of 1861, the South had 19,000 men laboring on the fortifications and Confederate forces installed 140 siege guns along the heights and extended a huge chain across the Mississippi to stop Union gunboats from navigating the river. By the time the Confederates finished their work, Columbus had become the most heavily fortified place in North America, earning the sobriquet, the “Gibraltar of the West.”Hearing Gen. Polk intended to bring more Confederate troops into the area, Gen. Grant launched an attack on Belmont and Union forces landed on the Missouri shore, forcing Confederate to retreat. Grant’s men turned Belmont’s guns on Columbus and fired on Confederate defenses. The Southern artillery fire from the opposing heights became so deadly that Grant retreated to Union gunboats. The Confederate bombardment of Grant and his men came from 140 cannons, including the famous 15,000-pound, 6.4 inch Andersen Rifle known as “Lady Polk” - named in honor of General Leonidas Polk’s wife - which could fire a 128-pound projectile for three miles.On March 3, 1862, Union troops occupied the Confederate fortifications at Columbus. The victory gave Grant and the Union their first success in securing the Mississippi and cutting the Confederacy in two. After the Civil War, Columbus continued to prosper and the Mississippi River remained the town’s commercial lifeline - and its worst enemy. In 1927, the greatest flood in the history of the Mississippi destroyed most of Columbus sweeping away 43 buildings and leaving only 13. Although the community was devastated, a piece of history had been uncovered: the huge chain that had once spanned the Mississippi, nearly forgotten, were uncovered by floodwaters and was preserved.The town of Columbus was moved to higher ground to prevent future disasters after the 1927 flood. The Department of the Interior established a CCC Camp (Civilian Conservation Corps) on July 17, 1934 and CCC workers aided in the development of Columbus-Belmont State Park, which now covers 160 acres. On display are the chain and a huge anchor used during the Civil War to bar the Mississippi and an 1850 antebellum home that once served as a Confederate hospital but now serves as a museum. The park has picnic grounds, a playground, a gift shop and a miniature golf course. The historic fortifications are still recognizable and serve as a reminder of American Civil War days.Preserving Hickman County memorabilia continues to be the goal for the Hickman County Museum located in Clinton. With over 7000 treasures donated by individuals, groups and communities throughout the county, the museum commemorates and preserves the rich social and cultural history of Hickman County. The museum board welcomes artifacts that represent the unique legacy of the county.There are three buildings set up with exhibits. The museum building has six rooms ready for tours. These include the schools of Hickman County, a military room, businesses of the county, and a general store. The “front room” holds rotating exhibits. At the present time, the exhibit gives us a glimpse of how life was for the early men and women. In this woodworking exhibit, you can have a glance of what life might have been for your grandparents. The Rose Berry Quilt Cottage is the home of many quilts ranging from pre-Civil War to the present. The third building is the office of Dr. Lenard Lamkin from the Springhill area. All memorabilia you will see on your tour has been donated except one item, Alben Barclay’s hat, which the museum board purchased. A Memorial/Honor brick walk is not only an ongoing fundraiser for the museum, but a memorial/honor for families and friends of the museum. You will enjoy walking over the walks discovering the names of your family and friends.Hickman County was formed in 1821. It was named for Captain Paschal Hickman of the 1st Rifle Regiment, Kentucky Militia. A resident of Franklin County, Kentucky, Hickman was wounded and captured at the Battle of Frenchtown in January 1813 and killed by Indians in the Massacre of the River Raisin. Columbus, in the northwest of the county and located on the Mississippi River, was the original county seat. A log structure built in 1823 served as the courthouse. In 1830, the county seat was moved to the more centrally located Clinton.
Fulton/Hickman County Economic Development Partnership, Tour120 Event Committee